Improved 2015 Kia Soul Earns IIHS' Top Safety Pick, Forte Fails

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The 2015 Kia Soul hatchback has rejoined the ranks of vehicles deemed worthy of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick. Meanwhile, the 2015 Forte fell short again after losing its status the previous model year, despite improvements.

Related: Not All Small Cars Shine in Latest IIHS Crash Tests

The Soul redeemed itself this time around by earning a good rating in the IIHS' stringent small overlap front crash test, which simulates what happens when a car strikes an object such as a tree or utility pole. IIHS rates cars on a scale of poor, marginal, acceptable and good. The Soul scored poorly on the small overlap test for the 2013 model year, and wasn't even tested for 2014 because Kia said things had not improved. The hatchback came back strong for 2015, however, raising its rating on the test from poor to good (acceptable would have earned it Top Safety Pick status). As is necessary for the safety designation, the Soul also earned good scores in the institute's other four crashworthiness evaluations: moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints and seats.

IIHS said the Soul improved by strengthening the front end and occupant compartment for 2015. "The driver space was maintained reasonably well with a small amount of intrusion," IIHS said in a statement. "The dummy's movement was well controlled, and its head hit the frontal airbag, which stayed in position during the crash."

By Matt Schmitz | September 17, 2014 | Comments (0)

What's the Best Cheap Speed Car for $30,000?

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Plenty of drivers want a level of performance without breaking the bank. We found eight cars that prove fun at the track is not limited to the well-to-do.

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge
Index | What the Judges Said | Mileage Test

We focused our Challenge on compact coupes, sedans and hatchbacks that cost less than $30,000, including destination charge. We picked the price based on Cars.com's listings for cars of this type that came with the features we know are popular with younger drivers looking for a performance kick. After five days of testing (including a day at a drag strip and a day on a road course) by experts from Cars.com, USA Today, "MotorWeek" and a real-life, in-market family, here's how the results broke down:

By Patrick Olsen | July 28, 2014 | Comments (21)

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge: Mileage Results

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Any car owner will tell you the cost of driving does not begin or end with the sticker price or the monthly payment notice arriving in the mailbox. There's insurance, maintenance and yes, the cost of gasoline.

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge
Index | What the Judges Said | Results

The competitors in our Cheap Speed Challenge may be relatively affordable considering their performance chops, but six of the eight require premium gasoline. Going into the contest, mileage didn't seem like it would be much of a story.

After a 220-plus-mile route through Wisconsin and Illinois that mixed in winding country roads, city streets and plenty of construction-laden highways, we discovered mileage was indeed worth talking about in this class.

By David Thomas | July 28, 2014 | Comments (1)

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge: What the Judges Said

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To test our sub-$30,000 speedsters, we put them through an even more rigorous set of tests than we usually use in our Challenges:

  • We spent one day at the Byron, Ill., Dragway to get zero-to-60-mph times and quarter-mile times and speeds; we also captured 60-mph-to-zero braking distances there.
  • We spent one day at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill., where the experts put the cars through a long day on the road course there.
  • We took all eight on a mileage drive of more than 200 miles to judge real-world fuel economy.
  • The experts drove all eight over the same course, back-to-back, to judge real-world ride and handling, acceleration and braking.
  • And then we brought in a real-life car shopper, Joe Weiss, a 38-year-old quality assurance manager from Chicago who's in the market for just such a car for himself and his fiancee.

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Weiss joined our cast of judges (left to right):

  • Brian Robinson, producer for PBS' "MotorWeek"
  • Joe Wiesenfelder, Cars.com executive editor
  • David Thomas, Cars.com managing editor
  • Joe Bruzek, Cars.com road test editor
  • James R. Healey, auto writer for USA Today

We set a maximum price of $30,000, including a destination charge. We had 10 cars on our list when we started, but we ended with eight (more on that in a bit):

  • 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth
  • 2014 Ford Fiesta ST
  • 2014 Honda Civic Si
  • 2014 Hyundai Veloster Turbo
  • 2014 Kia Forte5 SX
  • 2015 Mini Cooper S Hardtop
  • 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS
  • 2014 Scion FR-S
  • 2015 Subaru WRX
  • 2015 Volkswagen GTI

Mini said it did not have a Cooper in its press fleets that could meet our price cap; the Civic lost a tire after hitting a Chicago pothole, and repairs could not be made in time for track days. The judges did drive it in our round-robin day, and a report on those tests can be found here.

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge
Index | Results | Mileage Test

Here's how the scoring broke down: The experts' scores accounted for 50 percent of the total score; 10 percent came from the shopper's scores; 30 percent was based on track performance; and the remaining 10 percent was based on fuel economy.

Here is what the judges had to say about each car, in order of how the cars finished:

By Patrick Olsen | July 28, 2014 | Comments (8)

2014 Kia Forte 5 Photo Gallery

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The 2014 Kia Forte5 SX finished fourth in our $30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge. "Its suspension is surprisingly capable, and it looks the part of cheap speed with 18-inch wheels, dual-exiting exhaust and blackened exterior trim," said one of our judges. Check out our gallery below of the Forte5 SX up close and on the track.

Click on any image for a larger version.

Cars.com photos by Evan Sears

By David Thomas | July 28, 2014 | Comments (0)

What's the Most Affordable Car in 2014?

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Shoppers may face legitimate sticker shock when they're shopping for a new car. TV and radio advertisements may lead them to believe that new cars all get at least 35 mpg for less than $15,000, but the price of entry for even a modestly equipped new car is well above that.

Related: What's the Most Affordable Compact SUV for 2014?

That's why we've taken the cars with the lowest sticker prices and added a dose of reality. A vast majority of buyers never consider buying a car with a manual transmission (often the standard equipment on inexpensive new cars), so right out of the gate the car they're shopping for costs significantly more than they thought it would. Opting for an automatic transmission can cost $1,000 or more.

By David Thomas | July 21, 2014 | Comments (8)

2013 Honda Civic Versus its Competitors

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Before Cars.com's $20,000 Compact Sedan Challenge in November 2013, we took a detailed look at how our long-term 2013 Honda Civic stacked up individually against the 2013 Nissan Sentra, 2013 Toyota Corolla (before the 2014 redesign) and 2014 Kia Forte.

Follow Our Long-Term Fleet

For 2013, the Civic gained notable improvements after a half-hearted 2012 redesign. Our yearlong goal with the Civic was to assess those changes against other compact sedans that entered our rotating fleet of manufacturer-provided test cars. Below, see how well the updated Civic performed head-to-head against three of those competitors in the following categories: cabin quality, noise, handling, acceleration, braking, ride, gas mileage, seats and roominess, and multimedia usability.

By Joe Bruzek | March 4, 2014 | Comments (8)

Cars.com Announces Its Best of 2014 Nominees

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Whenever we give out our Best of Award, we focus on quality, innovation and value, and all six of these nominees performed well in all three of those arenas. It's never easy to pick this award; the voting this year was particularly contentious. I can personally vouch for that. Here are this year's nominees:

The nominees for the Best of 2014 are (in alphabetical order):

  • Acura MDX
  • Chevrolet Impala
  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Kia Forte
  • Mazda3
  • Mazda6

We will reveal the winner at our annual awards event on Jan. 14 in Detroit during the North American International Auto Show, and of course, here on Cars.com.

By Patrick Olsen | December 9, 2013 | Comments (4)

2014 Kia Forte Photo Gallery

Click any photo for a larger version. All photos by Evan Sears.

$20,000 Compact Sedan Challenge: Results
$20,000 Compact Sedan Challenge: Index

2014 Kia Forte LX

By David Thomas | November 10, 2013 | Comments (0)

2014 Kia Forte: Family Checklist

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Any parent would be thrilled to have the redesigned 2014 Kia Forte in the family garage; this compact sedan is good-looking, economical and surprisingly luxurious.

What a difference a year makes for the Forte. When I drove the 2013 model earlier this year, I likened it to an iPhone 4 living in an iPhone 5 world. It's impressive how much of an improvement the 2014 is over the 2013.

Some of my biggest beefs with the 2013 model were the steering and handling, but they've been improved for 2014. My 2014 Forte EX had the larger 173-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. It gets an EPA-estimated 24/36 mpg. I'm not sure what happened when it came to my gas mileage for the week — I averaged 22 mpg for my weeklong test drive — but I blame it on several days of commuting in Los Angeles' bumper-to-bumper traffic.

By Carrie Kim | October 11, 2013 | Comments (0)

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